New Information on the Alleged “Proof” of Multiple Torah Authors

A while back, I responded to an article claiming that computer science had demonstrated that the Pentateuch had two authors. This alleged “discovery” has, unfortunately, been making it around the news. I was concerned, since I believe that all of these news articles are heavily flawed in their linguistic reasoning, so I decided I would do an internet search to see if anyone else was concerned. During that process, I found an article from the man who conducted the study saying that this whole thing had been blown out of proportion. Not that the man is an evangelical, but it clearly was not his conclusion; in fact, that wasn’t even what his paper was about!

There are some things from the article I would like to comment on though. I do believe that this study has done nothing more than show that there are differences between legal jargon and narrative jargon. Koppel addresses that concern here:

Before you dismiss all this by saying that all we did was discover that stories don’t look like laws, let me point out there are plenty of narrative sections that the computerized analysis assigned to the P family (or, more precisely, to the nameless family that turns out to be very similar to what the critics call the P family). Two prominent examples are the story of Shimon and Levi in Shechem and the story of Pinchas and Zimri.

I want you to take a look at the last story, and tell me what you notice:

Numbers 25:10-15 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. 12 “Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.'” 14 Now the name of the slain man of Israel who was slain with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s household among the Simeonites. 15 The name of the Midianite woman who was slain was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian [NASB].

Do you notice all of the legal jargon; things like “covenant,” “peace,” “atonement.” Hence, we have very clear legal context to this passage. Also, note that the other text is in the context of the rape of Dinah, as well as the circumcision of the men of Shechem. You don’t think that this is something that is legally significant!!!!????? In other words, a narrative can address a legal topic; hence you would expect to find overlap when this happens.

Also, the mere fact that they produced similar results to the proponents of the Welhausen hypothesis only proves what I stated in my first article, namely, that they have the same presuppositions about language that the proponents of the Graf-Welhausen theory have. Authorship is not simply wrapped up in words and synonyms. It is not even simply wrapped up in style, as style will change depending on the topic and the participants in the discourse. One must consider the discourse context as well as the individual words that are used. The point is that, if you have the same linguistic presuppositions, you will come to very similar results. The question is whether language can be reduced down to synonyms groups or commonly used words like prepositions. Such is too simplistic. In fact, using this methodology, one could conceivably break the text down into any number of groups depending upon the ways in which discourse factors end up relating to one another.

I don’t agree with Koppel’s reasoning; still, his writing is far more careful than the sensationalistic stories you hear in the news media right now. He has laid out his methodology, and he has shown the conclusions to which it leads, and points out that the news media has gotten it all wrong. While I disagree with the methodology, at least Koppel has the honesty to admit that his research does not prove the sensationalistic claims of the media.


2 Responses to “New Information on the Alleged “Proof” of Multiple Torah Authors”

  1. Shawn Mathis Says:

    Thank you for doing the grunt work the media won’t do. Too bad you don’t get paid!

  2. otrmin Says:

    Lol, I hope one day when I finish my doctorate I will get paid for it!. Anyway, ya, a story like this comes out, and the media jumps all over it, whether it is blown out of proportion or not.

    God Bless,

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